Does a hierarchical society make us complacent about environmental breakdown?

On the recommendation of @Patrick_Andrews, I have started reading Reinventing Organisations. This ground-breaking book talks about how we may be going through another major evolution in consciousness, with this change being best demonstrated through the emergence of new ways of managing organisations.

Frederick Laloux, the author, who’s has a life-time delivering management consultancy services, talks about the emergence of organisational practices which he best describes in colours. Red being the authoritarian regime in which the strongest dominates, orange depicting hierarchical practices where there is the separation of roles and green where there is an inclusive decision-making process, which often gets undermined by leaders making uninclusive decisions. The emergence of teal organisations, the new organisational structure, is where groups are created within organisations to determine all of their own work collectively, without leadership. It’s really radical but he demonstrates through amazing case studies how these organisational practices have displaced responsibility resulting in incredible performance.

There is so much more to what I’ve described. This is a long and rich book but one quote that is used in the book shows me the importance of thinking about the challenge of environmental breakdown within this context:

The most exciting breakthroughs of the twenty-first century will not occur because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.

John Naisbitt

Now, most of the organisations we work within operate within an orange paradigm with some efforts of being green and inclusive. Organisations result in us displacing responsibility so that we’re not the one responsible when a manager or leader finds a problem - it’s like a child’s game of pass the parcel. We waste loads of time being political within organisations and either accept too much responsibility and work too hard and then get axed or promoted or keep our heads down.

An example talked about by Frederick, FAVI - the last large gearbox manufacturer in Europe, outcompeting most of the Chinese market. When they moved from their orange method of operating one of the first things the CEO did was to remove timing in and out for the factory workers. Productivity rose because these workers felt a sense of responsibility.

I wonder… Do we not take responsibility for the environmental breakdown because we are simply an unempowered worker? We have little fun in work, are struggling emotionally because of stress and feel our lives are simply not within our control? How could we feel responsible for something like climate change?

A poll conducted by Ipsos detailed that two-thirds of people believe we should impose restrictions to tackle climate change as we did for Covid. In many ways that shows that people want top-down action and don’t believe their fellow man would reduce emissions without restrictions.

This destructive loop of who should take responsibility is likely caused by attitudes within society, spurred by the way we organise ourselves. I have always thought that trust should take over control within human interaction/organisation.

Could our struggle with environmental breakdown result in us swinging back to top-down control or swing forward to trust-based means of operation? It’s an interesting question to ask and I wonder if anyone out there has any views to chip in?

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Thanks Tom. To my mind there is no doubt that the way our organisations is strongly linked to our collective behaviour, including our refusal to take climate change and mass extinction seriously. Laloux’s book points to the possibility of evolution of our organisations to become more caring and wise.